Saturday, March 3, 2012

Philosophical Psychology: "Contingent transcranialism and deep functional cognitive integration"

A new article by Jennifer Greenwood forthcoming here.


Contingent transcranialists claim that the physical mechanisms of mind are not exclusively intracranial and that genuine cognitive systems can extend into cognizers' physical and socio-cultural environments. They further claim that extended cognitive systems must include the deep functional integration of external environmental resources with internal neural resources. They have found it difficult, however, to explicate the precise nature of such deep functional integration and provide compelling examples of it. Contingent intracranialists deny that extracranial resources can be components of genuine extended cognitive systems. They claim that transcranialists fallaciously conflate coupling with constitution and construe cognition as extending always from brains into world rather than world into brains. By using insights from recent research in developmental psychology and by explicating the nature of one form that deep functional integration can take, I argue that (i) transcranialists do not fallaciously conflate coupling wth constitution, and (ii) human emotional ontogenesis is a world-to-brain transcranial achievement.

I don't have the article yet, but I'm going to speculate that by "contingent intracranialists" Greenwood includes Adams and Aizawa.  But, if so, we do not deny that extracranial resources can be components of genuine extended cognitive systems.  We think that extracranial resources can be component of genuine extended cognitive systems, it's just that they are not.  Here is the abstract to Adams and Aizawa, 2001:
Recent work in cognitive science has suggested that there are actual cases in which cognitive processes extend in the physical world beyond the bounds of the brain and the body. We argue that, while transcranial cognition may be both a logical and a nomological possibility, no case has been made for its current existence. In other words, we defend a form of contingent intracranialism
about the cognitive.


  1. I reviewed this; I thought the final revision was really good. I thought the emotion stuff was quite an intriguing example; certainly a novel one with some interesting angles. She also brought up the integration of tools into cortical activity which I know you aren't convinced by, but I was pleased to see because it's amazing to me it took embodied cognition people this long to notice the example.

    Look forward to your thoughts on the paper. I did mention at one point that while I thought she had a good point, it wasn't going to convince you :)

  2. The emotion stuff does seem intriguing, but I am wondering how this gets to be a reply to my views. What is the "contingent" in "contingent intracranialism" if not that it it merely a contingent empirical fact that cognitive processes take place in the brain. That means it can extend.

    And, I'm not sure where one gets the idea that we "construe cognition as extending always from brains into world rather than world into brains." I'm not even sure what it would be for cognition to extend from the world into brains, so I'm not sure that it's a thesis I would have bothered to argue about in our 2001 paper. But, I guess I'll have to get the paper.

    It is a kind of strange tactical move on Greenwood's part to object to me with overlooking/ignoring the possibility of cognition extending from the world into the mind. Why go after a small fish like me, when you could go after, say, Andy Clark, Mark Rowlands, or most any philosophers in the embodied cognition literature? The attention works to my benefit, but how does it work to hers?

    But, again, I'll have to get the paper.

  3. Yes, you need the paper. But the emotion stuff is supposed to be an example of cognition that does, in fact, extend, which addresses the contingent fact point you make. And iirc, 'extending from world into brains' is just a way of referring to the argument that world things don't get to loop back and be part of cognition.

    Anyway, look forward to your thoughts on the paper.

  4. Hi, Andrew, I'm not getting this last part about world things not getting to loop back and be a part of cognition.

  5. For you, things in the world/outside the head can be coupled to but not constitutive of cognition.